“ ‘In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.
I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father. In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.’
His disciples said, ‘Ah, now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech! Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God.’ ” (John 16:23-30)
How do you picture the Gospel? Is it like a Christmas tree with one big present under it, addressed to you? Or is it more like a Christmas tree with a whole bunch of big presents under it, all addressed to you? If you have the former picture in mind, you might feel like a friend of mine who once told me that to him the idea of hearing the Gospel proclaimed on a regular basis sounded repetitive, if not boring.
If the Gospel ever becomes repetitive or boring, then we need to repent. Here I am not calling out ingratitude; there is a more serious issue. The Gospel bestows many wonderful gifts. The Evangelist John calls them “grace upon grace.” (John 1:16) But if we are not hearing the Gospel proclaimed for us in its fullness and regularly, we risk failing to apprehend and appropriate in fullness the manifold gifts which God gives us in the Gospel. For His desire for each of us is: “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10b).
Undoubtedly we all could agree that the forgiveness of sins and eternal life are the chief gifts given in the Gospel. However, the Gospel also confers many other integral and interconnected gifts, each of which blesses us and is beneficial for our spiritual wellbeing. In the gospel text this week, Jesus promised the disciples the gift of direct access to the Father in His name.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.” (John 16:23b)
Jesus was returning to the Father. “In that day,” that is, following His resurrection and return with the Holy Spirit, His disciples will pray directly to the Father in Jesus’ name. The Holy Spirit will dwell in us as our Helper; Jesus will intercede for us as our Mediator at the right hand of the Father; and the Father will love us and grant our petitions, because we have faith in Jesus: “for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.”
“I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father.” (John 16:25)
Jesus does not give us the use of His name as a formality. Jesus gives us His name so the Father may grant our requests and make us joyful: “Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” (John 16:24b) It a type of joy that cannot be taken from us: “So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” (John 16:22)
Our Father gives us joy (another gift), which comes from faith in the resurrection. What is true for Jesus will also be true for us! The world knows nothing of Christian joy. The joy the world grants, regardless of wealth or status, is temporary and only distracts, at best, from the ever present fear of death. Moses understood this: “You return man to dust and say, ‘Return, O children of man!’ … You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning: in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers.” (Ps 90:3, 5-6) No matter what joys or sorrows we may experience during our earthly lives, our Father gives us an inward joy. This inward joy in the midst of sufferings produces endurance, patience and hope (Rom 5:3-4).
Therefore, Jesus sends the Holy Spirit (another gift), to teach us from His Word “plainly about the Father” and to “guide [us] into all truth” (John 16:13), so that we may use His name correctly and beneficially. “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.” (1 John 5:14-15)
“for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.” (John 16:27)
Jesus consoled the disciples by teaching them that the Father’s love for them does not depend on their righteousness or worthiness or from any other inward measure, which they might have imagined. The Father loves us solely because of our belief in Jesus: “because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.” Therefore, when we pray, we have only these two unshakeable considerations: (1) God’s promise to hear us for the sake of His Son; and (2) Jesus name.
Even our belief in Jesus (another gift) is bestowed by the Helper in the Gospel: “I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father.” We have two examples of this enacted by Jesus on Easter with two disciples on the road to Emmaus:
First through the Word: “They said to each other, ‘Did not our hearts burn within us while [Jesus] talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?’ ” (Luke 24:32)
Second through the Sacrament: “When [Jesus] was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.” (Luke 24:30-31a)
The Gospel is like a beautiful wildflower. If we continue to hear and ponder the Gospel, this implanted wildflower will grow into a great big beautiful meadow in our hearts. Amen.
“We give thanks to You, our God, who hitherto graciously and mightily helped us in all our needs. Be our refuge and our help, and when our last day comes, grant that we fall asleep commending our souls into the hands of Your Son, Jesus Christ, confident that through His name our death is precious in Your sight. Amen.” (Martin Luther, prayer accompanying Psalm 116)